Conscience and Truth
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Conscience and Truth
Preliminary note by Kristo Ivanov, prof.em. Umeå University
This item is an essay by former cardinal and later pope Benedict XVI Joseph Ratzinger discussing what I perceive as being the limits of rationality in terms of the relation between authority and conscience including personal convictions about scientific truth. In this essay Ratzinger approaches psychology by referring to Albert Görres (German Wikipedia), who attempts a Christian Catholic approach to the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud. A superficial presentation of Gorres is available in English and Swedish readers can find his translated paper on the "Limits of freedom" in Signum, 1980, nr 7. Nevertheless I find that Ratzinger's use of Görres in this essay is inconsequential for the high value and interest of the questions he raises, especially if one relates "authority" to power as I do when mentioning J.G. Fichte in several papers such as Information and Debate and Information and Theology. For the rest I consider it appropriate to relate the psychological issue to the analytical psychology of Carl Jung. The theological question is then better relegated to James W. Heisig's "Jung and Theology: A Bibliographical Essay" in Spring, 1973 (ISBN-13: 978-0882140087), to the relation between the phenomenology of Carl Jung and that of Max Scheler, and to the development of the latter into "phenomenological Thomism" in the PhD dissertation of Karol Wojtyla (later pope John Paul II). Unfortunately, in my opinion the complexity of Jung's texts makes him often misunderstood by those who criticise his understanding of Christianity, most often by means of their low-quality references to secondary and tertiary sources.
CONSCIENCE AND TRUTH
by Joseph Ratzinger
[Presented at the 10th Workshop for Bishops February 1991 Dallas, Texas.
In the contemporary discussion on what constitutes the essence of morality and how it can be recognized, the question of conscience has become paramount especially in the field of Catholic moral theology. This discussion centers on the concepts of freedom and norm, autonomy and heteronomy, self-determination and external determination by authority. Conscience appears here as the bulwark of freedom in contrast to the encroachments of authority on existence. In the course of this, two notions of the Catholic are set in opposition to each other. One is a renewed understanding of the Catholic essence which expounds Christian faith from the basis of freedom and as the very principle of freedom itself. The other is a superseded, "pre-conciliar" model which subjects Christian existence to authority, regulating life even into its most intimate preserves, and thereby attempts to maintain control over people's lives. Morality of conscience and morality of authority as two opposing models, appear to be locked in struggle with each other. Accordingly, the freedom of the Christian would be rescued by appeal to the classical principle of moral tradition that conscience is the highest norm which man is to follow even in opposition to authority. Authority in this case, the Magisterium, may well speak of matters moral, but only in the sense of presenting conscience with material for its own deliberation. Conscience would retain, however, the final word. Some authors reduce conscience in this its aspect of final arbiter to the formula: conscience is infallible.
Nonetheless, at this point, a contradiction can arise. It is of course undisputed that one must follow a certain conscience or at least not act against it. But whether the judgment of conscience or what one takes to be such, is always right, indeed whether it is infallible, is another question.
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